A Sunday Drive 7 Days A-Week
The Meriwether-Pike County Scenic Byway was approved on March 17, 2005 by the Georgia Dept of Transportation. The Byway celebrates the unique legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in west Central Georgia. During the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, FDR came to Warm Springs in hopes the therapeutic warm springs would help improve the condition of his legs, damaged by polio. Over the years, Franklin Delano Roosevelt invested financially and personally in the Meriwether County community. He built a home in Warm Springs (now operated as a state historic site) and spent many leisurely hours traveling throughout the county, picnicking and fishing at Flat Shoals, visiting the Cove (supposedly for its infamous bootleg whiskey), and merely driving through the countryside of the southeastern corner of the county.
The Scenic Byway retraces some of FDR’s favorite routes through Meriwether County, many of which have changed very little in the past 70 years.
Travelers can pick up the route at any point throughout the 55-mile loop; however, the logical departure point is the Warm Springs Welcome Center, a recreation of the depot where FDR would arrive into Warm Springs.
Travelers then head up GA 85 towards Gay taking a slight detour onto Covered Bridge Road, where they can see Red Oak Covered Bridge, one of the few remaining Town Lattice bridges constructed by noted bridge-builder and freed slave Horace King.
From Red Oak Creek, travelers head north on GA 85 towards the town of Gay, a town that grew up around the railroad and the shipping of cotton from nearby farms. Gay is home to a number of major events each year. In May and October, the Cotton Pickin’ Fair and the Great Gay Marketplace bring thousands from around the southeast.
From Gay, travelers head West on Massingale Mill Road, past Oakland Baptist Church, to Jones Mill, where a large grist mill and mill pond (at Red Oak Creek) are the only reminders of the once-thriving farm community.
Travelers loop back to Gay along GA 109 Spur, and then head east out of Gay along Flat Shoals Road. Late 19th and early 20th century residential architecture lines the road within the Gay city limits, giving way to large acres of farmland dotted with the occasional tenant house or outbuilding, reminders of the importance of agriculture in the county’s history.
Right before the Pike County line, the road crosses the Flint River at Flat Shoals. The current bridge was built in 1955, but inhabitants of the area have been crossing at Flat Shoals for hundreds of years. The Flint River is broad and slow-moving at this point, and the large, flat rock outcroppings make a natural foot bridge. In fact, Flat Shoals is part of the Oakfuskee Trail, a major trade route of the Creek Indians.
From Flat Shoals, travelers head back west on GA 18 to the Pike County town of Molena, an early 20th century town of red brick storefronts and an old wooden calaboose (jail).
From Molena, travelers again cross the Flint River and take Cove Road into the Cove. While most of the Meriwether-Pike County Scenic Byway route is characterized by rolling hills and straight roads, the Cove Road is full of steep hills and tight turns.
From the Cove, GA 85 takes travelers south of Woodbury towards Manchester with a stop at Flint Farms, an early 20th century farm atop Betts Mountain, which over the years has produced everything from peaches to cattle to red deer.
GA 85 continues south into Manchester, an early 20th century town built around the railroad and the textile industry. Designated a Better Hometown by the state of Georgia in 1997, Manchester continues to thrive with a bustling downtown and an active rail line. A special train-watching platform that doubles as a municipal pavilion was constructed several years ago to encourage train-watchers Each October the city hosts Railroad Days, attracting railroad enthusiasts from all over the country.
From Manchester, GA 190 leads back to Warm Springs along the Pine Mountain Ridge, the southernmost extension of the Appalachian Trail.
These qualities, combined with the story of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his drives through these counties provided the perfect selection for the Byway designation. More and more tourists are deciding to visit the Peach State annually because of the variety of destinations offered. The addition of the new Byway is just one more reason why people choose to visit Meriwether & Pike Counties and even a better reason why residents can “Stay and See Georgia”.